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Crit Rev Microbiol. 2006 Oct-Dec;32(4):227-48.

The contribution of cytolethal distending toxin to bacterial pathogenesis.

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Microbial Food Safety Research Unit, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Regional Research Center, Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania 19083, USA.


Cytolethal distending toxin (CDT) is a bacterial toxin that initiates a eukaryotic cell cycle block at the G2 stage prior to mitosis. CDT is produced by a number of bacterial pathogens including: Campylobacter species, Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi, Shigella dystenteriae, enterohepatic Helicobacter species, Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans (the cause of aggressive periodontitis), and Haemophilus ducreyi (the cause of chancroid). The functional toxin is composed of three proteins; CdtB potentiates a cascade leading to cell cycle block, and CdtA and CdtC function as dimeric subunits, which bind CdtB and delivers it to the mammalian cell interior. Once inside the cell, CdtB enters the nucleus and exhibits a DNase I-like activity that results in DNA double-strand breaks. The eukaryotic cell responds to the DNA double-strand breaks by initiating a regulatory cascade that results in cell cycle arrest, cellular distension, and cell death. Mutations in CdtABC that cause any of the three subunits to lose function prevent the bacterial cell from inducing cytotoxicity. The result of CDT activity can differ somewhat depending on the eukaryotic cell types affected. Epithelial cells, endothelial cells, and keratinocytes undergo G2 cell cycle arrest, cellular distension, and death; fibroblasts undergo G1 and G2 arrest, cellular distension, and death; and immune cells undergo G2 arrest followed by apoptosis. CDT contributes to pathogenesis by inhibiting both cellular and humoral immunity via apoptosis of immune response cells, and by generating necrosis of epithelial-type cells and fibroblasts involved in the repair of lesions produced by pathogens resulting in slow healing and production of disease symptoms. Thus, CDT may function as a virulence factor in pathogens that produce the toxin.

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